Saturday, May 23, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 Review

Pitch Perfect 2 Review
In case anybody can't remember, I was pleasantly surprised by "Pitch Perfect." Music has been apart of my background for awhile. I used to play piano, I used to play guitar, I stopped both because I was a lazy oaf in my youth and I regret not keeping up with both of them because I would probably be pretty awesome at both by now. I sure do sing a lot too, and not just in the car or in the shower. I took singing lessons from the same instructor who taught me to play piano. I sang in my high school's choir, an experience I liked and valued much more than I ever imagined going in as a freshman. I sang my first year of college before my schedule got too busy after that first year. So yes, music is important to me. There are musical films that I love and musical films I detest. "Pitch Perfect" came off like a reaction to "Glee." A musical movie that was going to try way to hard to be cute and fluffy, while actors sang upbeat versions of today's hits. Then I saw the movie and realized that "Pitch Perfect" was everything "Glee" wasn't, it was for all intents and purposes the Anti-Glee, and I loved every minute of it.
"Pitch Perfect"  told the story of the Barden Bellas, an all-female a capella group that fell from grace and what set the team back together again was the unlikely Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick). Beca didn't really want to sing, she wanted to produce music, but she saw this group as her only way into her field of study, something that she could add to her resume during her time at Barden University. It seems that Beca and the other Bellas strengthened each other, all the while singing great songs.
In "Pitch Perfect 2" the Barden Bellas are all in their senior year at Barden University and they have won three national titles in collegiate a capella competitions. They are performing at the Kennedy Center for President Barack Obama at the beginning of the movie and its clear they have become a big deal. Then something happens, something terrible, something that completely tarnishes their reputation and they are told that they cannot perform at anymore collegiate competitions again. Unless, of course, they go to the World A-Capella competition in Coppenhagen, Denmark and win, which has never been done by an American team because "the world hates America." The Bellas train hard, and recruit freshman Emily Junk (Hailee Steinfeld) into their team and Beca gets an internship at a recording studio, and she finds trouble trying to balance her time between her internship and the Bellas, which causes some dysfunction.
Once again, "Pitch Perfect 2" features some very funny material, material that had my entire theater in an uproar, myself included. It once again features some fabulous renditions of both classic and modern hits, stuff that is going to make you tap your foot and nod your head. Once again, Anna Kendrick is both wonderful and adorable. The work done by Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Ester Dean, Alexis Knapp, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, Skylar Astin, Adam DeVine, and John Michel Higgins is all rock-solid. I also really work the performance by Hailee Steinfeld, I knew when I saw her in the 2010 remake of "True Grit" that she was going to become something special, and absolutely nothing has changed. There is a great scene involving the some of the Green Bay Packers and Destiny's Child' "Bootlicious" which made want to stand up and applaud.
So "Pitch Perfect 2" has a lot going for it, and I liked the movie quite a bit. I just have a couple reservations.
Like many summertime sequels, "Pitch Perfect 2" suffers from Treading Water Symdrome. Put both "Pitch Perfect" movies side by side, and each movie is a parallel of the other. Everything that plays out in this sequel plays out exactly like it did in the first movie. In the beginning of both movies, the Barden Bellas had become dysfunctional and a unique individual swoops in to save the day, in the first film it was Beca and her mash-ups. In this sequel, its Emily and her need to write original music. There is a musical stand-off in both movies, but it felt more natural in the first and the set up in this sequel is downright creepy. I could go all night, this is sequel that is essentially a remake of the first movie, with the same themes and the same metaphors, just done differently.
There are also those sequel jitters that didn't quite get the job done. Rebel Wilson has lots of great stuff in this movie, but she was funnier in the first movie, I thought. The reasoning for the Bellas getting suspended from competition is a little thin, story-wise and how it plays out, I can't imagine any college really doing this to a school. Their mistake just isn't that severe, which took me out of the film just a bit. The antagonists of this film are Das Sound Machine, the a capella group from Germany who has won the World Tournament every year. Each performance by Das Sound Machine is, quite frankly, awesome. I can't quite get their rendition of Muse's "Absolution" out of my head and their mash-up of "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" and "All I Do is Win" is reason to pay full price for a ticket at the theater. The thing is, the movie pushes for a happy ending, and I just don't think its well deserved. In the first movie, I believed in the ending and believed the Bellas had the best performance. This time I didn't.
But hey, there is still plenty to like here. For a sequel, there was still enough charm and wit to get me through the entire movie. Even though the movie is built like a sequel there are several moments in the movie that shine bright. Sometimes sequels that merely remake the original become a laughing stock of celluloid (The Hangover: Part II anyone?), but this sequel was still quite entertaining. If you enjoyed the first film and are curious about this one, just go see it. I think it will be time well spent, even if the original is still better.

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